In today’s constricting economy, we are re-evaluating what is and isn’t working in our personal and business lives. Globally, we are spending more time thinking about our choices – how to limit our use of fossil fuels, what our spending priorities are and how to maximize the return on our efforts. This self-examination can limit our time and ability to be creative just when we may need to innovate the most.
The Santa Fe International Conference on Creative Tourism, September 28 to October 2, 2008, comes at this critical moment to address the needs of businesses seeking new models for success, and tourism is big business. In 2007 travel expenditures in the United States totaled $739.4 billion, generating 7.7 million jobs with a payroll of $186 billion. In New Mexico alone, travel expenditures were $5.077 billion in 2006, providing 80,000 total jobs according to the New Mexico Tourism Department.
Although the World Tourism Organization’s June, 2008 World Tourism Barometer indicates this will be a positive year for travel, the report cautions, “Uncertainty over the global economic situation is affecting consumer confidence and could hurt tourism demands. The current economic imbalances, in particular rising energy prices, are very likely to influence tourism spending.”
Dr. Geoffrey Godbey, professor emeritus at Penn State University, author and co-author of 8 books and approximately 100 articles dealing with leisure behavior, philosophies of leisure activity, and the future of leisure services, will be a conference presenter. He recently stated, “The experience is what’s being purchased, not a hotel room or an airline ticket or a car trip. So quality of experience is value for money and the basis on which travelers make their judgments. Creative tourism has a chance to weather the current economic storm by the quality of experience people are paying for.”
How then to make the most of a travel destination’s resources? In a world in which we all want the most for our time and money, what proactive steps can be taken to add value to a community’s appeal? How are entrepreneurs working today to reach their clientele with a product that cuts through the clutter? These are some of the subjects to be examined and experienced during the conference.
Underlying the concept of creative tourism is the critical need for authenticity, a word whose meaning is being diluted daily through its connection with everything from handbags to chicken wings. Creative tourism is meant to provide visitors with an up-close, hands-on, real experience grounded in a community’s people and culture. What gives these activities the greatest value is their genuine nature. It is a simple concept that takes some work and understanding to implement.
Dr. Godbey references the first book by James Gilmore and Joseph Pine, The Experience Economy: Work Is Theatre & Every Business a Stage, in which the authors underscore the need for businesses to sell real experiences in order to survive. “Creative tourists don’t go for service, they go for what’s memorable,” Godbey said. “They’ve done so much already – stayed in nice hotels, eaten in nice restaurants – what they want are experiences that last.”
With an outstanding group of guest lecturers and panelists, a variety of chances to see creative tourism in action around Santa Fe, and a diverse program of participatory workshops, conference delegates will have an abundance of real-world knowledge with which to work. “As the American population grows,” Godbey said, “small, unique tourist niches become more desirable, just as more of the same becomes less desirable.”
The conference’s location in Santa Fe is not coincidental. The city is the first UNESCO Creative City in the US with rich cultural influences and a highly-creative population. Recently, Santa Fe was listed as being home to the second-highest number of artists per capita in the country in a National Endowment for the Arts study. In addition, cities that are part of UNESCO’s Creative Cities Network such as Montreal, Edinburgh, Seville, Berlin, Bologna, Aswan, Popayan (Colombia) and Buenos Aries will be represented.
Conference registration is now available online at www.santafecreativetourism.com including complete schedules and conference information.